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Disenchanted Democrats Should Be Asking Deeper Questions

It’s worth questioning whether either Bill Maher or Bill Ackman is willing to follow his own logic to its uncomfortable conclusion.


We’re in another cycle of erstwhile social progressives publicly rebuking ideas they once embraced. This brutal honesty is laudable.

For hedge funder Bill Ackman, the soul searching began after Oct. 7. For Bill Maher, it seemed to begin at some point during the Donald Trump presidency and lockdowns, as elite hatred for the president accelerated and amplified illiberal tendencies on the left.

This trend is fueled at least in part by further leftward movement in the Democratic Party. Maher, of course, literally hosted a show called “Politically Incorrect” years ago, when his views were more fashionable in liberal circles. The classic “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me” explanation accounts for some of this. But not all.

At its heart, the question is whether people bothered by extreme trans ideology, border policy, critical race theory, and more oppose this extremism on a premise that undermines their broader worldviews.

Maher and Ackman are two particularly interesting case studies because it’s worth questioning whether either Bill is willing to follow his own logic to its uncomfortable conclusion. Much of what we’ve been quickly conditioned to accept is the radical fruit of moral relativism, not merely political correctness or “DEI” run amuck.

Earlier this month, Maher said on his program that “wokeness started as a great thing” and “morphed into something else.” Ackman backed Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., for president, then questioned him during a Spaces conversation on X about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Phillips said some reasonable things about equality of opportunity. He even took a reference to DEI off his website and explained, “Am I being educated by Mr. Ackman and many others on both sides of this issue and every other one? Yes.”

“I’ve been learning from so many people over the last two months about a lot of things I wasn’t aware of,” Phillips contended.

Ackman suggested Phillips “didn’t understand what DEI was when that was made part of his website.” He added, “I made the same mistake.” But even during his clean-up efforts, Phillips explicitly told CNN he believes in “equity.”

As recently as 2019, Phillips co-sponsored the Equality Act, one of the most radical pieces of legislation the House has ever considered. His congressional campaign website still brags about his support for the bill.

Inez Stepman, a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Center and Federalist contributor, analyzed the legislation in the Wall Street Journal.

“The Equality Act would threaten the existence of women’s prisons, public-school girls’ locker rooms, and women’s and girls’ sports teams,” she explained. “It would limit freedom of speech, freedom of association, accurate data collection, and scientific inquiry. It would threaten the rights of physicians who doubt the wisdom of performing life-changing, reproduction-limiting procedures, and parents who seek to protect their minor children from such treatment.”

For what it’s worth, honest proponents of the bill deny none of this. These sweeping changes are their goal.

Ackman pledged $1,000,000 to Phillips’ presidential bid. If both men are genuinely troubled by censorship, attacks on Title IX, and parental rights, they should actively rebuke this bill, which Democrats use as a major talking point.

It’s not about just this one piece of legislation. The Equality Act is meant as a catchall for the left’s approach to sex and gender and, indeed, “equality” as a legal concept. It’s a helpful proxy for the broader ideology.

I don’t mean to suggest staunch defenders of Western thought who, for example, support lifting restrictions on same-sex marriage or believe abortion should be legal or oppose harsh border security are bad or categorically wrong when they side with the left over the right. (As a woman, I generally enjoy access to voting and credit—even if it means I pull the lever for people with kind eyes and buy 30 percent of what Instagram advertises to me.) It is, however, worth considering how many truly radical positions have quickly become norms.

The absurdities of 2020 made this easy for some centrists and leftists to see, as did the fallout from Oct. 7 in campuses and media. Norms went from shifting over centuries to decades to years.

It’s the decades that caught us off guard. Changes in a lifetime feel slow relative to changes between presidential election cycles. In the sweep of human history, they’re not. But if you are one of the people who was wrong not to oppose trans ideology or DEI or ESG in 2010—despite the trends being obvious back in 2010—have you corrected fully for those biases that prevented clarity at the time?

Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying’s book, “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide To The 21st Century,” put a lot of this change in perspective.

In the West, at least, moral relativism was gradually mainstreamed as technology falsely undermined more and more people’s faith in the Judeo-Christian God and the system of ethics that sprang forth after Christ. But, as Tom Holland documented in “Dominion,” Christ is not an optional aspect of the Western values virtually everyone holds dear, even if we’ve taken those values for granted so long that their wellspring faded into the background.

This shift happened within the lifetimes of people still alive. Politico’s recent faceplant over “Christian nationalism” made this clear enough. The Founders’ vision for freedom of religion allowed enormous tolerance, but it did not pretend to establish that all religious traditions were morally equal. Without a belief humans are “endowed by our Creator,” the rights we all cherish do not logically follow.

Some honest non-believers today make reasonable arguments that Point A isn’t the only route to Point B. For a while, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was among them, until after Oct. 7 she announced “Dominion” had helped convert her to Christianity.

It’s not crazy, of course, to disagree with Holland or Ali. What’s crazy is for people who cherish American freedoms to dismiss offhand that our system of natural rights is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

That doesn’t mean every patriotic American needs to believe in God, but it does mean the people disturbed by the arc of cultural leftism should question why it upsets them. Is it because men and women are different and truth is not relative? Is it because equality of outcomes leads to racism and racism is hatred and hatred is bad? Maybe because free speech is just and justice is good? For many people, myself included, these questions lead us down a surprising path.

Standing by the “Equality Act” and “equity” might help centrist Democrats win elections in the short term, but it’s not a path to the long-term restoration of a healthy society. It will not make people physically or mentally better off in the future. It will keep us in purgatory, cycling through a holding pattern like “Groundhog Day.”

The effect of asking these questions is kind of like turning on your fog lights.

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